Cambodia: BBC Media Action, UNDP launch campaign to boost youth civic engagement
Phnom Penh – A joint BBC Media Action-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) multimedia campaign kicked off last week to encourage young Cambodians aged 15-24 to get involved in community-level volunteerism, voice their opinions to public officials and engage in decision-making.
The 18-month long national campaign called Loy9 targets five million young Cambodians – 60 percent of them of voting age – ahead of local elections that will take place this year and a national election in 2013.
Through a television drama, TV and radio talk shows and online platforms that encourage young Cambodians to learn, debate and share experiences on civic participation, the initiative funded by UNDP and produced by BBC Media Action seeks to alter the long-held view that young Cambodians are too young and not yet ready to take on greater social responsibilities.
“We want to see a change in the perception of youth and show that young people can take responsibility in helping their communities,” said Colin Spurway, Loy9 project director at the BBC Media Action, adding that young Cambodians are vital for the country’s development.
The campaign production results from a 2010 survey that found low levels of participation in civic life among young Cambodians: only eight percent had voiced their opinions to public officials or non-governmental organizations. The survey also revealed difficulty to explain the role of important democratic institutions, such as the parliament and commune councils. For example, around three quarters of young people had heard about the ‘parliament’, but two-thirds of them could not describe its role.
With over 30 percent of the population being between 15 and 30 years of age, Cambodia has the youngest population among the 10 member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“We hope that this campaign will help inspire young Cambodians to be more active in civic life – be it through engaging with local government authorities, volunteering to help people in their communities or protecting environment,” said UNDP Country Director Elena Tischenko.
The campaign is designed, developed, presented and marketed mainly by young Cambodians with some international experts’ support.
The first TV drama episode was broadcasted on Sunday 15 January featuring inspirational stories about young people from all over the country who are already making a difference in their communities.
The drama series depicts a young woman who develops an interest in film-making after seeing a former schoolmate return to their village to make a film. Together with a group of feisty friends, she sets out to use her film to help solve some of the village’s problems. A Loy9 ‘radio phone-in show’ will also be broadcasted on radio, and will be relayed by 12 provincial partner stations.
Campaign staffers will also be traveling across the country from now until July 2013 on a campaign-branded minivan to spread the messages about the importance of civic participation among youngsters in rural areas.